What is the Parents Forever™ theory of change?
Families face divorce, separation or custody changes in different ways. They also experience different outcomes, depending their risk and protective factors.
A theory of change is a type of logic model that clarifies why and how a program like Parents Forever™ results in improved outcomes.
Parents Forever™ seeks to improve resiliency by:
Reducing individual and family-level risk factors.
Increasing individual and family-level protective factors.
Parents Forever™ affects change through three primary channels:
Find out more about how these three channels are impacted and how they affect child and family well-being.
Just as children are impacted both positively and negatively by family transitions, adults are too. A central tenet of the Parents Forever™ program is that parental well-being matters.
Parents who possess greater resilience during and after the divorce and separation process can draw on a greater wealth of emotional, psychological and material resources as they parent and coparent their children. Greater resources to draw from increases the likelihood of:
Successful and effective parenting.
Successful and effective coparenting.
Better outcomes for children and families.
It is not enough to focus on parental well-being as a pathway to child well-being. Parental well-being should be addressed in its own right. Stronger parents make stronger communities. Through this emphasis, we further the Extension mission of “ensuring Minnesota communities are strong.”
Following are some examples of research on the effects of divorce, separation, or custody change on parent well-being.
Type of study: Followed adults over time and focused on those in the sample who divorced between 2004 and 2010 (n=6,639; Sharma, 2014)
Divorce was found to have a negative financial impact on both men and women in later life.
Women experience a greater negative lifetime financial impact. Women experienced an average decrease of $376,000 in total wealth. In contrast men experienced an average decrease of $146,000 in total wealth.
Type of study: Data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (Kamp Dush, 2013)
Results: Parents whose relationship dissolved experienced a greater increase in symptoms of depression than compared with parents whose relationship remained intact. This was true for both marital or cohabitating relationships.
Type of study: Overview of published research (Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010)
Results: When parents’ financial hardship and stress decreases, children’s outcomes improve
Type of study: Overview of published research (Kelly, 2012)
Results: The psychological adjustment of the primary custodial parent (or both parents if custody is shared equally) is one of the strongest predictors of outcomes for children.
Divorce, separation and custody change can affect the relationships parents have with their children.
Sometimes these impacts reflect coparenting agreements. For example:
When parents have joint physical custody, they may be caring for their children alone for the first time in their lives.
Coparenting agreement may limit the amount of face-to-face contact they have with their child. This could impact their parent-child relationship.
The parent-child relationship is one of the key ingredients to helping children successfully manage a family transition. Positive parent-child relationships are considered protective factors for children through a variety of life stresses. They are extremely important to children’s healthy development.
Following are some examples of research on the effects of divorce, separation, or custody change on parent-child relationships.
Type of study: Young adults with divorced parents (n=566; Riggio, 2004)
Results: Youth experienced less closeness with their fathers and more closeness with their mothers. The authors interpreted this finding in light of the fact that a vast majority of the young adults lived with their mothers following the divorce.
Type of study: Divorcing families (n=182; Sandler, Miles, Cookston, & Braver, 2008).
Results: Children whose mothers and fathers engaged in warm and positive parenting following divorce experienced fewer behavior problems than children of parents who did not.
Type of study: Meta-analysis of multiple studies (Adamsons & Johnson, 2013)
Results: Children who have nonresidential fathers who engage in positive parenting practices, and multiple forms of child-related activities, do better socially, emotionally, academically and behaviorally than children who do not.
Coparenting typically refers to the relationship between primary caregivers of a child (often parents). It can be expanded to include any adult figure with legal, financial, and emotional responsibility for child-rearing. Coparenting may look differently given different family circumstances. It can span from being extremely engaged and collaborative, to being more distant and businesslike relationships.
The research in this area has grown extensively over the past 20 years. What we now know is that the coparenting relationship is a unique and powerful contributor to child and family well-being. While healthy coparenting is clearly a positive for children, there is a word of caution. It is important to only encourage such relationships when it is safe to do so. In family contexts of domestic violence, coparenting should not be encouraged until it is clear that it is safe and recommended for everyone involved.
Following are some examples of research on the effects of coparenting relationships on child and family well-being.
Type of study: Divorcing parents in Portugal (n=314; (Lamela, Figueiredo, Bastos, & Feinberg, 2015)
Results: Parents with higher conflict in their coparenting relationship also had:
Lower life satisfaction.
Decreased family functioning.
More negative feelings following divorce.
Type of study: Data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (n=1,752; Goldberg, 2015).
Results: Mothers who reported more positive coparenting also reported increased financial child support payments from fathers. This was a reciprocal relationship. Increased child support payments also predicted improved coparenting, but this was a much smaller influence than coparenting had on payment.
Type of study: Interviews with 47 divorced parents (Jamison, Coleman, Ganong, & Feistman, 2014).
Results: Parents with successful coparenting relationships were able to take several positive actions that benefited their children.
Each adjusted their thinking and feeling about their ex-spouse in order to be more neutral and focused on their child or children. They did this vs. focusing on their former intimate relationship.
More successful parents adjusted their behavior to reduce conflict and increase flexibility.
These parents continually made small changes in how they related to each other, depending on evolving circumstances.
Adamsons, K., & Johnson, S. K. (2013). An Updated and Expanded Meta-Analysis of Nonresident Fathering and Child Well-Being. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(4), 589–599.
Conger, R. D., Conger, K. J., & Martin, M. J. (2010). Socioeconomic Status, Family Processes, and Individual Development. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 685–704.
Goldberg, A. E., & Garcia, R. (2015). Predictors of Relationship Dissolution in Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Adoptive Parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 29(3), 394–404.
Jamison, T. B., Coleman, M., Ganong, L. H., & Feistman, R. E. (2014). Transitioning to Postdivorce Family Life: A Grounded Theory Investigation of Resilience in Coparenting. Family Relations, 63(3), 411–423.
Kamp Dush, C. M. (2013). Marital and Cohabitation Dissolution and Parental Depressive Symptoms in Fragile Families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 75(1), 91–109.
Kelly, J. B. (2012). Risk and Protective Factors Associated with Child and Adolescent Adjustment Following Separation and Divorce. In K. Kuehnle & L. Drozd (Eds.), Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied Research for the Family Court (pp. 49-84). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lamela, D., Figueiredo, B., Bastos, A., & Feinberg, M. (2015). Typologies of Post-divorce Coparenting and Parental well-being, Parenting Quality and Children’s Psychological Adjustment. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 1–13.
Riggio, H. R. (2004). Parental marital conflict and divorce, parent-child relationships, social support, and relationship anxiety in young adulthood. Personal Relationships, 11(1), 99–114.
Sandler, I., Miles, J., Cookston, J., & Braver, S. (2008). Effects of Father and Mother Parenting on Children’s Mental Health in High- and Low-Conflict Divorces. Family Court Review, 46(2), 282–296.
Sharma, A. (2015). Divorce/Separation in Later-Life: A Fixed Effects Analysis of Economic Well-Being by Gender. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 36(2), 299-306.
Warshak, R. A. (2014). Social science and parenting plans for young children: A consensus report. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20(1), 46–67.